Friday, February 23, 2018

Plant Science 101

{Alternate post title: Just One of the Reasons We Homeschool} 

On Fridays, Duncan has the privilege of a private class with a retired Cornell University professor. To Duncan, he’s Opa—his grandfather, my Dad. Opa pokes at the soil with his cane, shows Duncan how to use a grafting knife, poses questions and possible scenarios, scribbles homework questions in his nearly illegible script.

Duncan is learning more from my father than definitions and cycles and tools of the trade. He isn't required to regurgitate for a single test and then dump what he's memorized to make room for the next chapter. He’s learning the magic of plants, the ancient art of growing things, the gift of his heritage.


In his book Apples, author Frank Browning writes that my father “spent his life recasting the shape, character, and genetic health of apple trees.” He has done that, true. But better than that? My father has spent his life recasting the shape, character, and health of his children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. And that is a life spent well and spent generously.

I am grateful, so overwhelmed with surging gratitude, that we have taken this path that allows this relationship between the generations to be fostered and nurtured. If he forgets all he learned about photosynthesis and erosion, so be it. What he will remember, what he will rest upon as he walks into his adult life, is his grandfather's gentle voice under a blue, blue sky. And that's reason enough to homeschool.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2018 Winter Hikes: Grotto Falls, Spruce Flat Falls, Seven Islands State Park, Indian Flats Falls

January 6: 5.6 miles to see frozen Grotto Falls. It was C-O-L-D but totally worth it!

January 7, 2018: We knew our time to see frozen falls was limited, so we hiked the next day to Spruce Flat Falls. This is one of our favorite short hikes; we've been doing this one for years, since the kids were little bitty. But W-O-W! This was like seeing a totally different waterfall! Absolutely stunning.

January 18: We started our 2018 Tennessee State Parks Adventure Challenge with a lovely 5.3 mile stroll at Seven Islands State Birding Park. It's a pretty park. We look forward to going back in the summer when the sunflowers are out and the birds and butterflies abundant. I love the starkness of a park in winter, though.

February 9: Indian Flats Falls. My friend Caroline and I seized a beautiful day for the 8.1 mile hike to Indian Flats Falls in the Smokies. No more frozen falls! In fact, we've had so much rain that the river was super full and flowing fast, as were the falls. It was a perfect hike with a wonderful friend.

I'm at 21 miles already this year, which is great for me! I'm hoping I can get a couple more hikes in this month—and lots this spring!

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Mid-Winter Update

Let's move backwards, shall we?

Last night, Randy and Duncan got home from an incredible trip to Northern Tier Boy Scout camp in Ely, MN. They and six others from our troop did the winter adventure trip—OKPIK: three days of dog sledding followed by a couple days of cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and general fun in the snow. They also camped out in snow dugouts for 3 of those nights (temps down to -35).

My guys

Ice fishing

Much of January was spent getting ready for the trip to OKPIK. Our co-op classes didn't start until January 24, so Duncan spent the first few weeks of the year studying for the ACT, reading, and doing math.  And the biggest thing: he got his first real job! He started working as a courtesy clerk (i.e., bag boy and cart collector) in early January. He's working more hours than I would have liked--more like 25-- but he's adjusting well to it.

Backing up even more…we celebrated Dad's 93rd birthday with his usual apple cake and lots of family. And, of course, ping pong.

Birthday boys: Dad with his great-grandsons, Soren and Rory. They all have birthdays within 2 days of each other.


 And right at the beginning of January, Randy and I headed to the Smokies for a couple of fantastic hikes to see frozen waterfalls. It was sooooo cold here, and frozen falls don't happen too often!

Spruce Flat Falls

Grotto Falls

And backing up even more, we were home for the first time in years for New Year's Eve this year. We have always spent NYE with Randy's brother and his wife in Charlotte, but they recently moved to Florida and left us without our traditions! We missed them, but we had an impromptu party which was loads of fun. Turns out that lots of people have nothing to do on New Year's Eve! We ate, drank, and played games all evening!



And I might as well throw in a few Christmas pictures, too, since apparently I never posted after Christmas. It was a wonderfully relaxing December, filled with family, food, and games. I wish it were December again already!

Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit was the favorite game of the season.

I think I'm all caught up now! Our co-op classes are back in full swing. I've just finished Of Mice and Men with my high school literature class, and we're in the midst of Cubism in my art appreciation/art history class. This is my last semester--LAST SEMESTER!!-- teaching high school classes for our co-op. I've been doing this for a decade or more, but next year Duncan will be taking all dual enrollment classes…and I'll be focusing more on BraveWriter. And graduating my last child. Yep.

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